Considering the fact that filming begins in less than a month, it comes as no shock that news is pouring out about the production of Iron Man 3…particularly in terms of casting and story. First off, let’s get what we know out of the way…
– The tale will be isolated from The Avengers, carrying little over from the team-up flick and remaining a standalone Iron Man story.
– Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, and Paul Bettany are all returning. Jon Favreau might be back as Happy Hogan.
– The film is a Chinese co-production, with an estimated $200 million budget.
– The story will have Tony up against arms dealers and terrorism on a global scale and having to rely on his smarts more than his tech. The Extremis run is a major influence.
– Ben Kingsley is lined up to play the big baddie, with Guy Pearce backing him up as shady scientist Aldritch Killian. Jessica Chastain is in talks to play an undisclosed lead role, which many speculate to be scientist Maya Hansen.
The majority of this information has leaked out over the past week. And now we have another piece of the puzzle. According to various sources, Andy Lau is apparently in final talks to join the production in a supporting role. Said role apparently has him playing a Chinese friend of Stark’s. Might we be in-store for an appearance from nuclear physicist (and future Radioactive Man!) Chen Lu*? It seems likely.
That’s not the interesting part though. Reports are also coming through that Lau’s character will be teaming up with Iron Man to help him deal with a terrorist who poses a threat to both China and the United States (as well as the rest of the planet). The terrorist? The Mandarin.
Now we all know that Kevin Feige and Shane Black have vehemently denied that The Mandarin will be making an appearance in Iron Man 3. This fact seemed even more likely when it became clear that the film is being co-produced by DMG, a Chinese company. China is notorious for both editing and outright banning any films that portray their country in a bad light. Hell, they removed Chow Yun Fat’s entire performance in the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie before allowing it to appear in screens in the nation!
So where does that leave us? Is the Lau part true, but the rest false? Or is DMG willing to allow Marvel to use The Mandarin so long as the character is not portrayed as a Chinese man? And if Iron Man must seek the help of Chinese nationals to take down the threat he poses? I think they might. If so, it means Marvel has been lying to us since Black joined the production. No big deal there. Studios lie all the time.
When he was still attached to the project, Jon Favreau often spoke of finally bringing The Mandarin into the picture in the third film. He also mused about the fact that the character’s powers would likely end up tech-based and that they would have to find a way to get around the racist caricature that he previously represented. Has Black done just that?
According to the synopsis I found online, Extremis revolves around Killian selling state-of-the-art weapons technology to terrorists. Could said terrorists be Mandarin’s organization, The Ten Rings? It would certainly make sense, given their supporting involvement in the first two films. Are we being given a non-Chinese Mandarin in the form of Ben Kingsley?
I find it INCREDIBLY odd that Marvel has no problem letting the public know who everyone else it playing, but dodge the very same question when Kingsley is mentioned. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t turn out to be a stand-in for The Mandarin, even if the actually “moniker” isn’t in use or is only mentioned in passing.
Black has likened the plot of the film to a Clancy-esque techno-thriller involving global terrorism. Having a villain (Mandarin or not) initially pit the US and China against one another sounds very Clancy (and Bond!) to me. However this unfolds, expect more information about Iron Man 3 to roll in day after day until production begins in a few weeks (and likely for weeks after).
My own personal take? I hope it’s all true. I hope Kingsley IS actually playing The Mandarin. This film is sandwiched in Marvel Studios’ schedule between their big team-up picture and an apparently Nine Realms-centric Thor sequel. It’s time to make leaps forward, not stay on the same course. I’m not expecting them to go crazy and bring in Fin Fang Foom or a tone of magic, but it would be nice if they’d step things up in the villain department. Simply having men in armored suits blasting Tony isn’t going to cut it anymore. Give us something more! Something truly epic! If you’re spending $200 million on this, I expect nothing less. That said, I completely trust Shane Black to deliver a satisfying sequel, no matter what his creative choices may be.
Is Marvel lying to us? Are we getting Kingsley as a toned-down Mandarin? Or am I just over-thinking it all? Chime in on the forums and in the comments section below.
* – I don’t know if they’d have him Radioactive Man from the start (probably not), but if he is Chen Lu, I’ll be shocked if he isn’t set-up as that character by the finale…either to aide in the fight or as a result of the aftermath. I’m definitely not expecting the appearance of China’s own supergroup in the Marvel universe, The People’s Defense Force…although an allusion to it might be fun!